Attendance and the law

The legal duties of schools

Schools have a legal duty to

  • monitor student attendance daily and
  • to inform the local authority of any student who is regularly absent from school

They must also investigate any unexplained absences as part of their legal safeguarding duty.

Schools should

  • promote good attendance and reduce absence, including persistent absence
  • ensure every learner has access to full-time education to which they are entitled
  • act early to address patterns of absence

The legal duties of parents and carers:

You must make sure your child gets a full-time education that meets their needs (for example if they have special educational needs).

You can send your child to school or educate them yourself - see our home education page.

If your child is registered at school, you must ensure they attend regularly and arrive on time.  

Children must get an education between

  • the school term after their fifth birthday and
  • the last Friday in June in the school year they turn 16

When your child is not receiving an education

The school will contact you if your child is enrolled in school and does not attend (even if they’re only absent for a day).

The local authority will contact you if

  • they think your child is not getting a suitable education at home


  • your child has irregular school attendance or
  • the school makes a referral to the local authority for further investigation and support

You can be prosecuted if you do not give your child an education.

Prosecution is a last resort. You will normally get offers of support first. Then, if appropriate, the local authority may issue warnings.

When your child can miss school

You can only allow your child to miss school if either:

  • they are too ill to go in or
  • you’ve got authorisation from the Headteacher of the school

There’s extra support available if your child cannot go to school for long periods because of a health problem. See our teaching for sick children page.

Help with getting your child to go to school

If you’re having trouble getting your child to go to school, the school and local authority can help.

The school will discuss the attendance problems with you. They should agree a plan with you to improve your child’s attendance. This takes may involve making reasonable adjustments. The school can also refer to the local authority for additional support, advice, and guidance. This will help you in supporting your child to access their education.

Why school attendance is important

Learners need to attend school regularly to benefit from their education.

Missing out on lessons leaves learners vulnerable to falling behind, both academically and socially. This impacts on their emotional wellbeing and creates further barriers to learning.

The government expects schools and local authorities to:

  • promote good attendance and reduce absence, including persistent absence
  • ensure every learner has access to full-time education to which they are entitled
  • ensure the safeguarding of learners and
  • act early to address patterns of absence

The government expects parent and carers to:

  • perform their legal duty by ensuring their children attend school regularly

The government expects all learners:

  • to be on time for their lessons

Government guidelines require school attendance of above 90%.

Good school attendance is central to raising standards in education and ensuring the safeguarding of learners.

When school attendance drops below 90%, the school and the local authority can help to identify the reasons for absence.

There can be many reasons for low attendance, and these can be complex. When we know the reasons, we can work with the student to put together an effective support plan.

In East Sussex our aim is to achieve excellent levels of attendance for all our learners and schools.

The Local Authority work with schools, colleges, settings and families. We work to find solutions that are inclusive, holistic, collaborative and innovative.

For more information, visit:

If you have attendance concerns, please contact the school in the first instance.

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